On April 23, 2021, following 10 months of deliberations by the Fraternity’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Chairman Bill Lowry, Kenyon ’56, delivered in-person remarks to the Board of Trustees introducing the Commission’s “Phase II” recommendations. His sentiments underscored the importance of actions matching intentions.
Almost 67 years ago to the day, I was initiated into Beta Theta Pi. At that time, I felt the men who had the courage to initiate me were truly special people. Despite my admiration for those men, however, I remained skeptical of the larger organization. My welcome was less than gracious.
I was wrong.
There have been many things that have happened since that day in 1954 that has enabled me to realize the splendor of this fraternity. Among these treasures was the Board’s foresight to authorize the formation of the Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The wisdom and timeliness of the decision are impeccable.
As I look at the world today, a solid understanding of people, places and things is imperative. A seat on the sidelines can be disastrous and horribly unproductive. In my view, we are experiencing perhaps the greatest paradox known to mankind. On the one hand, our culture seems strangled by hate, racism, symptoms of fascism, separation, intolerance, violence and more – and these notions are not confined to the U.S. While, on the other hand, there exists widespread expressions for the antithesis of all those negative elements. It appears a universal conscience has been resurrected. People seem to recognize the pain of others. Many are feeling there is value in difference and agree that consolidation of ideas and actions can be productive.
People are trying to find the keys to the concerted effort and want to share the benefits of its coalescence. Some people are motivated by a need to have a greater understanding while others have become simply more emotionally involved. Whatever the influence, it seems the metamorphosis is complete and many feel if things continue to erode our minds and actions, life as we have known it will truly dissipate.
This brings me to this momentous occasion. Discussing a major step addressing diversity, equity and inclusion – all dimensions related to our continuing enhancement.
Several months ago, August 7, 2020, to be exact, upon completion of the Commission’s initial task, I commented on some things I thought important at the time. For instance, I remarked, “Now we have to see if our deeds can match our words. We have to establish a template that not only covers our present environment but our future as well.” In addition, I suggested “a good starting point for our journey is prioritization. What are the areas we have to identify initially that add the greatest value to what we want to accomplish?”
I think you will see that our focus on Language, Voices and Education provides appropriate direction and offers priorities on which a firm base can be built. Our exploration and expansion of these terms have opened a critical path for us to follow.
Additionally, another key component of what is being formulated is empathy. In our initial thoughts concerning these areas, we postulated nothing we do will have meaning if empathy is not achieved. I recognize the difficulty in achieving this dimension, but I marvel at our audacity to pursue it.
When we started this journey, we realized the road will be daunting. The road continues to be bumpy and fraught with hazards. We are mindful that perhaps everyone may not be in step, but we are convinced this effort is important not just to us, but to all we serve as well.
Personal audits will be necessary along the way, but above all, we have to be committed to lasting progress in these areas of our concern. We also have to remember temporary attention will only provide temporary relief. We must hurry but not rush, be patient but persistent.
I have enjoyed working with this magnificent group and I’m pleased with our progress. Moreover, I applaud the Commission for its supreme effort thus far. I sincerely hope the Board will be pleased as well.
In addition to developing a framework to advance Beta’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the Commission crafted implementation strategies also unanimously adopted by the Board of Trustees. The following summarizes initial tactics put in motion to enrich the brotherly spirit of Beta Theta Pi, which includes quarterly calls to monitor progress.
- Beta’s official writing Style Guide has been updated through a DEI lens.
- The Ritual and Code Review Task Force has been appointed and is charged with preparing recommendations for the 183rd General Convention’s consideration.
- Beta programs and resources are being edited in accordance with Style Guide updates.
- General Secretary Wayne Kay, Virginia Tech ’73, appointed Bill Lowry, Kenyon ’56, as Beta’s first DEI Commissioner.
- The Board of Trustees has assigned its standing Stakeholder Engagement Committee as the permanent home for DEI oversight.
- The Fraternity’s reporting system now allows individuals to bring forward DEI concerns when conduct is misaligned with Beta’s values.
- Expert guidance is being identified to help the Fraternity craft its educational philosophy.
- The staff has completed DEI education as part of Beta’s commitment to ongoing training.
- Calls with chapter DEI chairs and advisors share best practices across Beta’s Broad Domain.
- Consistent with racial data acquisition first implemented in 2013, Beta’s membership system is being updated to capture ethnicity and sexual orientation demographic data.